By JESSE BURKHARDT
It's always a few "bad apples" that spoil it for everyone else.
This old truism is behind a move by SDS Lumber Co. and Broughton Lumber Co. to end what has been many years of unrestricted public access and recreational use of SDS and Broughton lands in Skamania County.
In a recent letter to the Mill A Community Action Committee and the Underwood Community Council, Frank Backus, chief forester of SDS, explained why the companies now need to close their property to the public.
Backus described a number of harmful activities that have been taking place on company lands, including:
Unauthorized mountain bike and motorcycle trail construction and maintenance;
Theft and damage to SDS private property including cutting down trees and illegal firewood cutting;
Theft of logs, trees, and other forest products;
Off-road vehicle damage to reforestation areas and sensitive resources;
Road damage due to unauthorized use during winter conditions;
Dumping of garbage;
Illegal hunting and harassment of wildlife on SDS property;
Vandalism to property and equipment;
Drug use and other illegal activities; and
Unauthorized fires and wildfire risks.
"SDS and Broughton hope that the residents of the surrounding communities will respect the landowners' decisions," Backus explained. "Public use and recreation access on these lands have been allowed for many years as a benefit to the community. The decision to close these properties to public access comes as a result of many discussions over a number of years by the management of SDS and Broughton."
Employees of SDS and Broughton are currently in the process of posting signs on affected lands. The signs read "Entry by Written Permission Only."
"This policy applies to all public access and recreation use, including motorized and non-motorized use, hiking, hunting, horseback riding, etc.," Backus said. "This policy will apply to all SDS' and Broughton-owned lands in the Underwood, Mill A, and Willard vicinities. If this policy is not respected by the public, gates or other road blockages may become necessary."
Backus added that SDS and Broughton will work with the Skamania County Sheriff's Office to enforce the new policy. Violators will be cited by for trespassing under Washington state law.
Underwood Community Council member Sally Newell said she understood the reasons behind the closure.
"It's a sad development, but I've seen the dumping and the damage to their land," Newell said. "If people won't show some respect, they don't deserve access."
A permit process is being developed. To obtain a permit, contact Backus at 493-2155.